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Teaching Responsibilities

A common misconception about teaching English in Korea is that it is easy and doesn't require much work. This is false and you will have a number of responsibilities outside of classroom teaching.

Class Preparation

As with teaching jobs anywhere, TEFL jobs in Korea will require spending time preparing for classes. While the amount of class preparation will vary for different jobs, such as public school teachers and people working at private language institutes, you should expect a minimum of one hour per day.

Preparing for classes may include:

  • making photocopies
  • finding CDs
  • copying handouts
  • creating and going over lesson plans
  • correcting homework
  • developing tests
  • filling out student progress reports

Lesson Plans

The most successful teachers make their classes both fun and educational. Some teachers are fun, but their classes are random snippets of the English language. Others have structured lesson plans, but their classes are boring. To facilitate learning based on progression, combine structure and fun by having a concrete objective for each lesson that builds off of the previous one.

Student Evaluations

Teachers working in institutes may be responsible for filling out student assessment cards once or twice per month. These cards are more for parents than for students themselves and institutes that use this system will provide you with cards and instructions on how to fill them out.

EFL teachers in public schools are rarely required to complete student assessment forms.

Public Schools

People working in public schools will be co-teaching with Korean teachers, all of whom have different ideas of what role they would like the native teacher to play in class. Some Korean teachers will ask you to prepare lesson plans and materials for your classes together, while others will prefer to do everything themselves. Relationships with co-teachers can make or break one's time in Korea, so fostering good rapport with them cannot be overemphasized.

Regardless of what kind of co-teacher you are assigned, you will have more than enough time to prepare for your classes during your regular work hours.

Private Language Institutes

EFL teachers at private language institutes (hagwons) will almost always teach entirely by themselves. Class sizes will be much smaller than at public schools, and most institutes have some sort of curriculum for teachers to follow, including textbooks, prints, and games.

Professionalism

Teaching is a well-respected profession in Korea and standards of professionalism are often different than similar jobs in the West. While foreign teachers don't fall into the same category as Korean teachers, a higher degree of professionalism than a teaching job back home will most likely be required.

Dress

Korea is a formal country when it comes to attire, and dressing professionally goes a long way. While suits and ties are usually not required, EFL teachers should save the shorts and favorite old shirts for the beach. Standards for appropriate dress vary by workplace and a good rule to remember is that over-dressed is better than too casual.

Punctuality

Being on time is also very important in Korea and is considered part of being professional. Packages for EFL teachers are lucrative, especially taking local wages into account, and arriving early for work is a great way to endear yourself to your employer. Considering a teacher's relationship with their employer often determines how enjoyable their time in Korea is, these seemingly small matters can make a big difference.

Cleaning

From elementary school through high school, students in Korea are responsible for cleaning their school. Some reasons behind this practice include learning how to take on responsibility, developing appreciation for what you have, and building stronger bonds with classmates.

This practice of cleaning often continues when people begin employment and, as a member of the company or school, EFL teachers are also often expected to lend a hand. While this practice may seem foreign to many people from the West, it is a great way to develop good working relationships with your colleagues and employer.

Just as a simple act like volunteering to help sweep the floor and doing it with a smile on your face can do wonders for making your time in Korea more enjoyable, complaining about having to clean the office will almost certainly generate resentment in the workplace.

Being Sociable

One of the most important parts of your job teaching English in Korea is being sociable. A friendly and outgoing person with a BA degree in math is usually more successful at teaching children than someone with a PhD in TEFL who is quiet and keeps to themselves. Children want to have fun as much as they want to learn English and many EFL teachers in Korea joke that only half of their job in the classroom is being a teacher – the other half is being an entertainer.

Although it is not stated specifically in your contract, you will be expected to chat with students outside of classes. You should also take time to talk with your coworkers and make effort to foster good rapport with them. Again, going the extra mile in little things outside of teaching in the classroom is a great way to create a positive work environment and ultimately have a more fulfilling experience in Korea.

Meetings

Koreans tend to have more meetings than in the West and one of your responsibilities may be to attend weekly or bi-weekly staff meetings. These meetings may be in Korean, English, or both.

Seminars and Teacher Training

As an EFL teacher in Korea, you may be required to attend teacher training seminars or workshops once or twice per year. These workshops are more common for people teaching in public schools than for those in private institutes. Teacher training sessions may be exclusively for native teachers or held in conjunction with workshops for Korean English teachers.

Final Note

While you will have time to complete all of your responsibilities during regular work hours, going the extra mile in helping out around the workplace is a great way to have the best possible experience in Korea.